U nabs cliffhanger

Studio goes 'Over the Edge' for rights to article

In a deal worth high-six against seven figures, Universal and the Kennedy-Marshall Co. emerged victorious in a bidding war for the feature film rights to “Over the Edge,” a piece by journalist Greg Child about four world-class climbers taken hostage in the Central Asian mountains of Kyrgyzstan by fundamentalist Moslem rebels intent on ransoming them.

Article, which will appear in the November issue of Outside magazine, has also been sold as a book to Villard in a six-figure deal for North American rights.

U and producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall have bought the rights to use that material as well as the life rights to climbers Jason Smith, Beth Rodden, Tommy Caldwell and John Dickey. The quartet, who have climbed some of the most brutal mountains in the world, were taken hostage by gun-toting rebels and forced to march for six days. During that time, they were shot at repeatedly by soldiers aiming at the rebels and watched the rebels kill numerous soldiers. Terrified, they hatched an escape plan that involved helping the rebels scale the rough terrain. The four eventually found their way to freedom after dodging gunfire and eluding pursuing rebels.

“When I read the piece, I immediately saw the opening scene, these four people sleeping, hanging off a cliff in sleeping bags, awakened by the noise of somebody shooting at them,” said Marshall. “The story fulfills what we are all looking for in action adventure films, and that is ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.”

The “Over the Edge” sale was engineered by U president Kevin Misher and exec veep Mary Parent. The climbers and Child were repped by the UTA agents responsible for brokering the sale of Sebastian Junger’s “The Perfect Storm” to Warner Bros. That film has spurred Hollywood’s interest in true-life survivalist fare. The agents worked in concert with literary agent Susan Golomb, who made the publishing deal.

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